Government workers seeking jobs in private industry have discovered they may have to fight an unflattering stereotype.
"I found these biases to be as real as any race or religious prejudice I have encountered," says Washington career-consultant Jodie M. Nachison. A former federal employe, she talked to 20 employers while preparing a RIFfees workshop at the Human Development Service.
From these contacts and from former federal workers who have found jobs outside of government, Nachison developed these strategies for combating the myths of bureaucrats:
MYTH: Federal workers do not show enough initiative.
STRATEGY: Use active words like "initiated," "created," "developed" and "designed" in letters, your resume and in interviews.
MYTH: Federal workers do not understand the whole picture. They have had only isolated responsibilities.
STRATEGY: Stress your ability to understand the inter-relationship of each part of a system and the roles of each player. Discuss your ability to work with, not against, a system to get things done.
MYTH: Federal workers are only paper-pushers.
STRATEGY: Stress your perseverance, attention to detail, the ability to work with staff and management, creative skills and ability to see work through to successful completion.
MYTH: Federal workers will not work overtime. They will not accept reduced vacation and holiday time.
STRATEGY: State your willingness to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. Offer examples of such past efforts.
MYTH: Federal workers are overpaid. They will have unrealistic expectations regarding salary increments within a short period of time.
STRATEGY: Do not place your GS rating on your Form 171 or any correspondence. Do not share GS level until it is appropriate in a conversation. Research new fields quickly to discover salary scales and see if they are compatible with your needs. Make sure you have this information before any interview process.
MYTH: The federal experience does not relate to any of our needs.
STRATEGY: Do your skills assessment. Stress skills and accomplishments. Consider a functional, not a chronological, resume. Try to obtain true informational interviews from a wide base of associates and contacts.
MYTH: Federal workers do not present themselves well, either on paper or in an interview.
STRATEGY: Ensure that all written correspondence is short and impeccable. Dress like a professional in an interview. Talk about skills, not anger or the RIF process. Prepare for each interview carefully.
MYTH: Federal workers won't perform vigorously enough for us. They are interested only in security.
STRATEGY: Acknowledge that your career direction has shifted, but that you are enthusiastic about the prospect of using your skills in a new context. Explain how you have done this before.